Moonstruck! A special series inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing on 20 July, 1969

Fifty three years ago, this month, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) “Eagle” carried three men to the Moon. The world watched in wonder how “one small step for man” changed the course of science, art, politics and culture forever. America’s Cold War scorecard registered a feat that was declared a collective human achievement. While the symbolism and imagery of the moon landing had a profound impact on global collective conscience, it was an event that had ample creative precedents. The Moon was always more than a curious celestial neighbour; it was a reality unique to each. Naturally, its cinematic possibilities were endless. We were already over the moon before the Apollo 11 crew. As an anniversary special, this series looks at some movie posters of the pre-landing period that have left us quite moonstruck!

The Montreuil Magician and the Moon

Untitled sketch for A Trip to the Moon (1902), Georges Méliès. © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris, via MoMA

We begin our series with this iconic imagery of a super annoyed moon struck by a space capsule from the 1902 movie A Trip to the Moon. Georges Méliès, the man behind this surreal and fantastical spectacle of a lunar mission blurred the boundaries between magic and motion pictures for the first time. A magician from Montreuil, France, Méliès secured his place in the history of cinema, thanks to his jammed camera. Once while filming a scene on the street, he had to stop for a few minutes to fix a glitch his camera. Later when he saw the film, he noticed that a car had disappeared during that cut! Voilà! The earliest special effect was born. A Trip to the Moon is Méliès’ celebration of this mastery of illusion. And what better subject than the Moon to dazzle his audience with a drama that is equal parts hilarious and violent. Méliès’ trick went far beyond his technique. He was playing with the very idea of a space expedition, the satirical rendition of which speaks volumes about the space race that has only grown absurd with time.

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